Anyone active on book twitter is aware of the controversy that inspired this post. We won’t talk about the tweet or the response. Instead, we’ll draw inspiration from the discussion and share some of our favorite shorter works.
The Possession of Natalie Glasgow
The Possession of Natalie Glasgow is one of those stories that starts out with familiar terrain, but takes a hard left turn. Sharing anything about the plot would give too much away, so we won’t do that. This early work by Hailey Piper sizzles, and Piper has an effortless writing style that lures you in and holds you start to finish.
From Goodreads: “Margaret Willow has never met an eleven-year-old as dangerous as Natalie Glasgow. Natalie spends her days comatose, but at night she prowls her mother’s home, unnaturally strong and insatiably carnivorous. With doctors baffled, Natalie’s mother reaches out to Margaret, an expert in the supernatural. But even Margaret is mystified and terrified by Natalie’s condition. She’s dying, and before she dies, she might kill someone. Has a demon clawed its way inside an eleven-year-old girl? Or does the source of this nightmare lie with Natalie’s dead father?
“A tight, tense novella, The Possession of Natalie Glasgow twists the exorcism tale at every turn down to its final grave confrontation.”
Crossroads is a horror story about grief, and how a person’s grief might compel them to do the unthinkable. It’s a lean, tight story that holds you in its grip to the very end.
From Goodreads: “How far would you go to bring back someone you love?
“When Chris’s son dies in a tragic car crash, her world is devastated. The walls of grief close in on Chris’s life until, one day, a small cut on her finger changes everything.
“A drop of blood falls from Chris’s hand onto her son’s roadside memorial and, later that night, Chris thinks she sees his ghost outside her window. Only, is it really her son’s ghost, or is it something else—something evil?
“Soon Chris is playing a dangerous game with forces beyond her control in a bid to see her son, Trey, alive once again.”
Boneset & Feathers
Odette knows what it’s like to be othered, persecuted, treated like dirt. Boneset & Feathers has some haunting, beautiful lines that stick with you long after the last page. Read a full review of Boneset & Feathers here.
From Goodreads: “You don’t know their fire is coming until it’s too late. That’s exactly the way the witchfinders like it. As an isolated enchantress, Odette knows this too well–she lost nearly her whole family to the last round of executions, barely escaping with her own life. All the magic she could conjure wasn’t enough to protect her mother and sister, a burden that leaves a despondent Odette practically wishing she’d burned with the rest.
Now it’s five years later, and as the last witch left from her village, Odette has exiled herself to the nearby woods where she’s sworn off all magic, hoping instead for quiet and for safety. But no witch has ever been permitted a peaceful life.
It starts with crows tumbling out of the clouds and spectral voices on the wind that won’t leave her alone. Then there are those midnight visits to the graveyard that she can’t quite remember in the morning and the strange children following her everywhere she goes. Odette wants to forget magic, but her magic doesn’t want to forget her …”
Follow Me to Ground
Follow Me To Ground is one of the more unique books I’ve read in recent years, and it leaves its mark. The author has a distinct writing style and this is a captivating story well worth checking out.
From Goodreads: “A haunted, surreal debut novel about an otherworldly young woman, her father, and her lover that culminates in a shocking moment of betrayal – one that upends our understanding of power, predation, and agency.
“Ada and her father, touched by the power to heal illness, live on the edge of a village where they help sick locals—or “Cures”—by cracking open their damaged bodies or temporarily burying them in the reviving, dangerous Ground nearby. Ada, a being both more and less than human, is mostly uninterested in the Cures, until she meets a man named Samson. When they strike up an affair, to the displeasure of her father and Samson’s widowed, pregnant sister, Ada is torn between her old way of life and new possibilities with her lover—and eventually comes to a decision that will forever change Samson, the town, and the Ground itself.
“Follow Me to Ground is fascinating and frightening, urgent and propulsive. In Ada, award-winning author Sue Rainsford has created an utterly bewitching heroine, one who challenges conventional ideas of womanhood and the secrets of the body. Slim but authoritative, Follow Me to Ground lingers long after its final page, pulling the reader into a dream between fairytale and nightmare, desire and delusion, folktale and warning.”
True Crime is lean whirlwind of a story, a tornado leaving a trail of devastation in its wake. I read it, and the next time I was skyping with my agent, I told him he needed to read it. This is a shade of dark that will appeal to any fans of noir fiction.
From Goodreads: “Suzy and her brother, Lim, live with their abusive mother in a town where the stars don’t shine at night. Once the abuse becomes too much to handle, the two siblings embark on a sordid cross-country murder spree beginning with their mom. As the murder tally rises, Suzy’s mental state spirals into irredeemable madness.”
Secrets can eat away at you, and not knowing what happened to a friend who vanished could tempt you to do almost anything to get answers. Is Bobby’s kidnapper – or killer? – tormenting her? Or is someone taking advantage of Laura’s tragic past and playing a sick game?
From Goodreads: “Every year, on her birthday, Laura gets a letter from a stranger. That stranger claims to know the whereabouts of her missing friend Bobby, but there’s a catch: he’ll only tell her what he knows in exchange for something… personal.
“So begins Laura’s sordid relationship with her new penpal, built on a foundation of quid pro quo. Her quest for closure will push her to bizarre acts of humiliation and harm, yet no matter how hard she tries, she cannot escape her correspondent’s demands. The letters keep coming, and as time passes, they have a profound effect on Laura.
“From the author of Cruel Works of Nature comes a dark and twisted tale about obsession, guilt, and how far a person will go to put her ghosts to bed.”
On the surface, Below is a horror story that exploits your fears about being isolated in the wilderness. Go below that, and it’s the story of a woman sick of being oppressed by controlling men. Can she break free from their expectations? Can she vanquish their voices and the terror lurking in the dark?
From Goodreads: “HOW FAR WOULD YOU GO TO HELP A STRANGER?
“While driving through the mountains of West Virginia during a late-night snowstorm, a recently divorced woman experiences bizarre electrical problems, leaving her with little choice but to place her trust with a charismatic truck driver. But when an unexplainable creature with haunting red eyes gets between them, she is forced to make one of the toughest decisions of her life. Will she abandon the stranger who kept her safe—or will she climb down below, where reality has shapeshifted into a living nightmare?”
James Sallis has multiple novels that could be on this list. I’m a fan of the Lew Griffin series, where the mystery you’re trying to solve is really Lew. Also a fan of Drive, and the Turner series, including Salt River. You really can’t go wrong with Sallis, and his Lew Griffin and Turner series books are among the most memorable I’ve ever read.
From Goodreads: “John Turner—ex-policeman, ex-con, war veteran and former therapist—has come to a small town near Memphis to escape his past. But the past proves inescapable; thrust into the role of Deputy Sheriff, Turner finds himself at the center of his new community, one that, like so many others, is drying up, disappearing before his eyes.
“The sheriff’s long-lost son comes plowing down Main Street into City Hall in what appears to be a stolen car, while waiting back at Turner’s cabin is his good friend, Eldon Brown. “They think I killed someone,” he says. Turner asks: “Did you?” And Eldon responds: “I don’t know.” Haunted by his own ghosts, Turner nonetheless goes in search of a truth he’s not sure he can live with.”
Cradle and Grave
Cradle and Grave is a dystopian sci-fi story that doesn’t take time to slowly immerse readers – they must orient themselves in Dar Lien’s world as the plot unfolds, and this immersive experience is part of the magic of this tight novella.
From Goodreads: “In the distant dystopian irradiated future of Cradle and Grave, Dar Lien is a professional scout for scavenger runs into the Scab, a ruined urban-zone badly infected by heavily mutagenic phenomena called the Change. When Yusuf and the mysterious Servertu employ her for an unorthodox run into the Scab, she finds herself embroiled in a conflict she didn’t expect.”
Flowers For the Sea
Flowers For the Sea is an impressive novel from a powerful voice. It held me spellbound, and is definitely not a book I want to spoil, because it holds some surprises along the way.
From Goodreads: “Flowers for the Sea is a dark, dazzling debut novella that reads like Rosemary’s Baby by way of Octavia E. Butler.
“We are a people who do not forget.
“Survivors from a flooded kingdom struggle alone on an ark. Resources are scant, and ravenous beasts circle. Their fangs are sharp.
“Among the refugees is Iraxi: ostracized, despised, and a commoner who refused a prince, she’s pregnant with a child that might be more than human. Her fate may be darker and more powerful than she can imagine.
“Zin E. Rocklyn’s extraordinary debut is a lush, gothic fantasy about the prices we pay and the vengeance we seek.”
Inheriting Her Ghosts
Inheriting Her Ghosts is an intriguing ghost story that flows effortlessly. S. H. Cooper’s never disappoints.
From Goodreads: “Inheritance often comes with strings attached, but rarely are they as tangled as those hanging over High Hearth.
“When Eudora Fellowes learns she’s the sole heir of her estranged great-aunt’s seaside manor, she believes it will be the peaceful escape she’s longed for. What awaits, however, is a dark legacy shrouded in half a century of secrets, and it doesn’t take long before Eudora realizes she’s not the only one to call High Hearth home.”
Of course, there are plenty of other great short works you can enjoy. This is a list of a few of my favorites, and it would have been easy to double the number of selections, illustrating there’s room on the shelves for works of all lengths.